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Sales skills - 3 steps to get in front of a prospective buyer

Posted September 23, 2014
6 minute read

This article is about you getting in front of prospective buyers. It outlines 3 efficient, straightforward steps that give you the best chance to get in front of the right people.

While I never purport that sales is a “numbers game”, the numbers do play an important role in achieving your sales quota. How many sales do you need to make to meet/exceed your quota? How many proposals do you have to present to make a sale? How many qualified buyers do you need to get in front of to get the opportunity to present a proposal? How many people do you have to contact to identify a qualified buyer? And so on…

Clearly the first step in the process is making contacts – lots of the right ones. And, often times the best way to make contacts is picking up the phone and calling. I am not talking about cold-calling in the traditional sense or as some call it “dialing for dollars”. Follow these 3 steps and you will significantly increase your success rate at getting in front of the right people.

Step 1 – Get a list of the right buyers/companies

It is easy today to get a list of companies that might be prospective buyers. Salesgenie.com, InfoUSA.com, InfoFree.com and Hoovers.com are some of the leaders in this space. In most cases, you can get good lead information from these sources for less than $0.50 per contact.

Determine the criteria that describes your target market and apply this criteria to develop your lead list. In most cases your criteria might include geography, # of employees or gross revenue, and SIC code. SIC code is the “Standard Industrial Classification” designation each business is given based on the kind of business it is. For example, the SIC code for a home health care agency is 8082, and for a bakery goods manufacturer it is 2051. Look up SIC codes.

Plug in your criteria to the business database you choose to work with and you’ll get a list of companies that meets your criteria, including in some cases the name of the person to contact. However, don’t expect the contact information to be perfectly accurate. That’s where Step 2 comes in.

Step 2 - “Right party calling”

What is “right party calling”? It is a quick call just to find out who the right person is within the target company that might be your prospective buyer. These calls are quick and easy to make. Depending how busy you are, this is a fairly straightforward process that can be outsourced to an experienced individual or company that is set up for outbound calling.

The script might go something like this – “Hi, my name is Neal Lappe and I’m seeking some advice about sales training. Please know I‘m not selling anything, just seeking some advice that will be a big help for me. Who is the best person in your organization to contact that might be able to give me some advice about how your company uses sales training resources?”

Realize you won’t be 100% successful, but “right party calls” will get you some good information that will make the next step much more productive. Let’s move to Step 3 – Calling for advice.

Step 3 – Call for advice - don’t sell

Would you be more receptive to a call that is clearly selling something or a call in which the caller is genuinely seeking your advice? Most likely, it’s the latter. Don’t get me wrong, the recipient is probably skeptical about your motives, but you are improving your chances of having a meaningful conversation with a prospective buyer. Worst case, the person you are calling might feel flattered by your inquiry.

Be genuine. Don’t seek advice unless you are genuinely interested in hearing it. This is not a ploy and not a sales pitch. It is a genuine desire to get expert opinion about your product/service. If you can’t genuinely ask for advice, then don’t do it. Don’t even give the slightest hint that you are making a sales pitch. If you do it right, the prospective buyer will ask you about your product/service and you’ll be on your way.

You can increase your success rate if you are able to drop a name – someone who referred you to the company or to an individual, or you know someone who works at the company.

Before making your call prepare the questions to get the advice you are seeking. Here are some questions you might use…

  • What could make sales training more valuable to a firm like yours?
  • What kinds of things associated with sales training would be particularly impressive to you?
  • What are some of the biggest competitive challenges your company faces?

The script for your call might go something like this – “Hi, my name is Neal Lappe and I’m seeking some advice about sales training. I realize I am asking a big favor of you, but I am trying to improve my service and could use some help. In some ways I don’t know what I don’t know. Please know that I have nothing to offer or to sell. May I get a few minutes of your time for some advice?” Then you begin asking your questions. If the person wants to use your service or buy your product, you'll know. He will likely just ask.

End the call by thanking the person for his time. If the buyer doesn’t express interest at that time but is qualified, put him in your “sales pipeline” for ongoing lead nurturing activity. Remember, few buyers are in the buying mode when you call, but you want to be there when they are ready to buy.

In summary, this 3-step process will get you in front of prospective buyers much more effectively than traditional cold calling, and will have you engaged in a meaningful conversation rather than a sales pitch. Go to an online business database and acquire a list of prospects that meet your criteria. Find out who the right person is by making “right party calls”. Then, engage with your prospect by way of seeking advice without making a sales pitch.

Topics Sales, Selling Skills, Sales Training

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